For those involved in marksmanship training and education, it is depressing to sift through the piles of nonsense dispensed by people with little shooting skill. Here’s an account from a run-in with your typical misinformed soldier.

>> And no, shooting is not shooting ….

Marksmanship fundamentals used to hit targets with a rifle in competition are the same marksmanship fundamentals used to hit targets with a rifle in the field. Being a simple, mechanical, internal combustion device, a firearm doesn’t “know” if it is being pointed at a target on the range, an animal in the woods or an enemy on the battlefield. A firearm will only place bullets based on where the barrel is pointed when the sear is released and the launched bullet clears the crown. It can be no other way.

Fundamental skills are the same. A rifle only points and launches bullets where pointed and will do so whether pointed at a target on the range or an enemy in the field.

Shooting is shooting. An attempt to misrepresent this inescapable truth is ignorant.

While all marksmanship skills are rooted in competition experience, modern sniping doctrine is very literally so. Arthur Terry, a Marine warrant officer running sniper training for the likes of Jim Land, Carlos Hathcock and others, derived sniping doctrine directly from competition shooting. Gunnery Terry’s cadre including a number of competitive shooting greats, including Olympian Arnold Vitarbo. Land is on record stating that the personnel credited with creating modern sniper doctrine were seasoned competitive shooters who took that experience and applied it to sniping. Anyone familiar with the format of conventional competition, especially the various team matches and Hearst Doubles events realizes the roots of sniping. Unfortunately, low level marksmen are often unaware of this influence. More on that here:

>> No amount of time on a range will ever prepare you for shooting in combat.

Then snipers and Marines/soldiers are screwed because the range is where they practice learning how to shoot as well. The only difference is that top competitive shooters have a higher standard of performance on the range needed to win matches than snipers need to qualify or pass their training.

>> Marksmanship has nothing to do with a gunfight.

Marksmanship is the ability to hit targets consistently and on purpose. If you believe such an ability has nothing to do with a gunfight, then you must believe there’s no need for an ability to hit your enemy consistently and on purpose.

Considering this thread started over snipers and competition shooters, if “marksmanship has nothing to do with a gunfight” how do you propose snipers or other soldiers/Marines be trained?

I believe military, law enforcement, hunters and gun owners are better served by being able to hit their foe, animal and/or target shot at with consistency. The ability to do that is marksmanship, and it can be learned and measured on the range and in competition.

>> Marksmanship teaches confidence in your weapon system. It shows you how your weapon functions, how it fires, what happens when you pull the trigger and that you can hit your target. But almost all of that goes to hell in a real world situation. You will not be able to control your breathing. You will not be able to get a good firing stance. Your sight picture won’t be perfect. It doesn’t matter how good you are on a range, none of that applies to a real world situation.

So, marksmanship training teaches how to hit targets but that training “goes to hell” in a real world situation. Does the confidence taught also go to hell? What other training also goes to hell in combat or under stress? Medical (first aid) skills? Radio use and communication? Driving/piloting? Parachuting? Should soldiers be able to hit targets at all real world, or just spray randomly as their training “goes to hell”?

>> Being on a range doesn’t teach you how to fight.

True. Physical fitness training doesn’t teach you how to fight, but being fit helps you fight better. Range training doesn’t teach everything needed about fighting, but an ability to hit targets more accurately and quickly helps you fight better.

>> Being on a range is not a substitute for being in combat.

It builds a skill (marksmanship) that can be used elsewhere. Most Soldiers and Marines aren’t particularly good at it because their standards in training are low and often taught by others of low marksmanship skill (Drill Sergeants, etc.) Soldiers leave training as poor marksmen and a stress situation like combat further degrades already poor skill levels, leading to a false conclusion that range training doesn’t work.

>> But there are just several things that are significantly more important in combat than what you learn on a range.

There are things that may be more important in combat than any form of weapon skill. A radio is arguably an Infantryman’s most powerful weapon. Plenty of other things that need to be trained. Hopefully, that training doesn’t also “go to hell.”

>> When under pressure in a combat situation, I can guarantee the snipers will perform better.

Then the pressure of a competitive match should pose no problem for them at all, you’d think…

In the end, I suggested this person write up his approach that would be better and twice offered to publish it on all the blogs I maintain and present it to my peers on the USAR Marksmanship Program. As a soldier with such a strong opinion and ideas of what “better” might be, he should have jumped at the chance. Well, I assume he’s a soldier because he claimed to be. Never did get his name, rank, shooting experience or skill because he never divulged any of that.

That is the real problem. Random, nameless non-shooters will complain about how studied marksmen with competitive shooting backgrounds suggest training be conducted but when given an opportunity to spell out their “better” ideas and methods nothing is forthcoming. The mantra seems to be, “I don’t have any solutions or ideas, but I’m happy to bitch about stuff I don’t understand and am too lazy to learn.”